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HHS math teacher wins $220,000

A Hastings High School math teacher certainly knows how to keep a secret.

Tom Fritze "won" $220,000 Monday night on the popular prime-time television show "Deal or No Deal." Actually, he won the money last August, but he signed an 18-page confidentiality agreement and couldn't tell anyone about the show and the amount he won until the show aired Monday.

The show was taped last August and was scheduled to air last December, but didn't.

"We were bumped by the Christmas specials," Fritze said.

Then the show was scheduled to air in January. Bumped again.

"The ratings had been going down for 'Deal,'" Fritze said. "So they put 'Howie Do It' on in its place to bring the ratings up."

Finally, last night, Fritze could tell his secret. And he did it in style.

He invited family, friends, and college classmates to a restaurant in Eagan, and they all watched the show. He let them all in on the secret at the same time.

How did he end up on the show?

"That's a funny story," Fritze said. "About a year ago, I got a phone call from a friend who said there were tryouts for the show and wanted to know if I'd like to go along and try out. I said, 'Sure, I'm not doing anything else.'

"When we got there, there were about 8,000 people in line. It was about 1 o'clock and they were going to close the line at 3. So I said to my friend, 'Let's go grab some lunch and come back.'"

An hour later, the line wasn't any shorter, Fritze said. If anything, it was longer.

"I asked myself, 'Do I really want to do this?' I mean, it was December."

But he waited in line about eight hours.

"Ten people were let in at a time to talk to each of the producers," Fritze said. "We each got 30 seconds to tell a story about ourselves. I told a story from high school.

"The producer told me I was the kind of person they liked to have on the show."

He filled out a packet of paperwork and then headed to a mock show in Minneapolis and a 50-minute video interview.

"Then the producer comes in with two envelopes and tells me one has a paper with 'yes' on it inside, and one has one with 'no.' I picked envelope number two and got the 'yes,' so that's how I got chosen for the show. I think."

Fritze was told he wouldn't hear anything for nine months to a year.

When the call came, Fritze was putting in some extra hours, earning a little money, at a restaurant in Apple Valley.

"I looked at my cell phone and saw I had about 14 missed calls from my dad. He knew I was working and I thought that kind of was funny. When I called him, he said he had a producer from the show on the phone who wanted to talk to me 'now.'"

The producers of the show also talked to his family, his closest friends, checking him out thoroughly, and then flew him to Los Angeles a week later.

The second day in Los Angeles (actually Culver City, he said), Fritze was in the studio, doing mock shows.

"They didn't go too well, and the producer asked if that's the way I wanted to appear on television. 'Hey,' I told him. 'It's hard playing with a cardboard box.'"

The program was aired Monday night, and Fritze is $220,000 richer - almost.

"The deal is that I don't get paid for another three months, three months after the program airs."

Fritze has a few plans for the money, now that it's almost in his grasp.

"There's the insane amount of debt," he said. "And I'd like to take a few vacations. And maybe buy a house, but I don't know how much I'll get after taxes."

Fritze teaches math. Did the math play a part in his winning?

"Math helped," Fritze said. "But I'd be crazy to say luck didn't play a big part in it.

"But I figured the percentages of picking the right case. And about $131,000 was the average expected payout, so anything more than that ... well, the percentages drop."

Appearing on the show with Fritze as his on-air support team were his parents, Dave and Debbie Fritze, and childhood friend, Eileen Weinberger.

Fritze has been teaching math in the district since 2006. He's also a football coach.